Was Augustine a Filioquist in the sense that the Council of Florence defines Pneumatology? Some say “yes,” but they are depending upon a surface level understanding of some hard-to-interpret words of Augustine’s. Ironically, Augustine anticipated his words would be misused:

I expect, indeed, that some, who are more dull of understanding, will imagine that in some parts of my books I have held sentiments which I have not held, or have not held those which I have. But their error, as none can be ignorant, ought not to be attributed to me, if they have deviated into false doctrine through following my steps without apprehending me (Book 1, Par 6).

To thoroughly answer the question of whether Augustine’s Pneumatology was Orthodox, it is absolutely necessary to unpack all 15 books of On the Trinity. By understanding these books’ illustrations and consistent arguments, it is possible to get a firm handle on Augustine’s Pneumatology.

In this article we cover Books 11 through 14.

Now, let’s unpack our final illustration. In review, Augustine posited the existence of three trinities in the mind as reflections of the actual Trinity:

  1. Mind, Knowledge, Love
  2. Lover, Love, Beloved
  3. Mind, Will/Soul, Vision

We covered the first two in the previous article and saw that the first two are interconnected. The Mind is also the Lover, as the Mind Loves Knowledge. As we shall see, the third Trinity is similar in this regard, as it includes the Mind and it equates the Spirit (Will) with the desire proceeding from the Mind, actualized upon the realization of Knowledge of visible things (i.e. Vision).

In Book XI, Augustine begins by simply defining what vision is like:

When, then, we see any corporeal object, these three things, as is most easy to do, are to be considered and distinguished: First, the object itself which we see; whether a stone, or flame, or any other thing that can be seen by the eyes; and this certainly might exist also already before it was seen; next, vision or the act of seeing, which did not exist before we perceived the object itself which is presented to the sense; in the third place, that which keeps the sense of the eye in the object seen, so long as it is seen, viz. the attention of the mindthat attention of the mind which keeps the sense in that thing which we see, and connects both [sense and the thing we see], not only differs from that visible thing in its nature; in that the one is mind, and the other body; but also from the sense and the vision itself: since this attention is the act of the mind alone [solius];… (Par 2)

This is the single most important passage in the whole series of books for the purposes of discerning whether Augustine is more closely approximated to Roman Catholic or Orthodox in his Pneumatology. However, because the preceding passage requires a fleshed out understanding of trinities within the mind, it appears to be glossed over everyone on both sides of the issue. 

I submit to you, dear reader, if we understand this passage, we can arrive to no other conclusion that Augustine is theologically at odds with Florence and Aquinas.

First, let’s prevent any misunderstandings. It is easy for one to read in the passage “first, second, third” and think the Persons of the Trinity are being listed. This is not occurring in the preceding passage. 

The physical object and physical eyes are not metaphors for Trinitiarian hypostases. Rather, Vision (the spiritual “act of seeing”), the Mind, and Will/Soul proceeding from the Mind are metaphors for the hypostases as they pertain to the immaterial components of what make  up a vision. 

If the preceding is an accurate presentation of what Augustine is trying to convey with his metaphors in Book XI, the fact that Will to see proceeds only from the Mind, or in Augustine’s words, “this attention is the act of the mind alone,” disallows for any contention that Augustine was a Florentine Filioquist

The attention, the will to look, meets the criteria of being the Holy Spirit because it “connects both” Mind and Vision. Augustine defines the Spirit specifically as what the Father and Son hold in common–the harmony between the Persons. The Spirit is the “connection” so to say which allows different Persons with relative differences to share the same essence.

In Par 5, Augustine restates the scheme from Par 2, but calls the “attention of the mind” the “will of the mind:”

The case then being so, let us remember how these three things, although diverse in nature, are tempered together into a kind of unity; that is, the form of the body which is seen, and the image of it impressed on the sense, which is vision or sense informed, and the will of the mind which applies the sense to the sensible thing, and retains the vision itself in it.

Immediately afterwards, Augustine then reiterates that the Will is from the immaterial soul (i.e. the Mind) alone:

The first of these, that is, the visible thing itself, does not belong to the nature of the living being, except when we discern our own body. But the second belongs to that nature to this extent, that it is wrought in the body, and through the body in the soul; for it is wrought in the sense, which is neither without the body nor without the soul. But the third is of the soul alone, because it is the will.

The metaphor is obvious. Vision, which represents Jesus Christ, has a physical incarnate nature and also an immaterial, eternal nature. The first, the “visible” (physical incarnate) “thing” is an entity outside of the one who sees and this aspect is Vision is not from the Mind/Soul. Jesus Christ’s physical body, for example, is from the Virgin Mary–not the Father. The second, “is wrought in the body…in the soul” or in other words, is immaterial and from the Mind/Soul–the divine nature of Christ from the Father. The third, unlike the first and second, is the Will to have Vision. The Will has no connection to the physical realm and does not depend upon there being a physical thing that can be see. It is from the Mind/Soul alone, just as the first is from the “thing” and the second is from the Mind/Soul as well. Hence, if we keep the metaphor intact, we can see that just as Jesus’s divine nature is from the Mind/Soul alone, so is the Spirit’s. Otherwise, the metaphor of there being a true Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) reflected in the example of how we have Vision no longer exists, nor works according to the guidelines Augustine just gave.

In Par 9 Augustine gives us the additional details necessary to illustrate Vision:

Of that vision then; that is, of the form which is wrought in the sense of him who sees; the form of the bodily thing from which it is wrought, is, as it were, the parent. 

When we look at our own body from which Vision is wrought, it appears the visible form of the body is where Vision comes from. However, this is misleading. Vision must have an immaterial/spiritual origin.

But it [the body where vision appears to proceed from] is not a true parent; whence neither is that a true offspring; for it is not altogether born therefrom, since something else is applied to the bodily thing in order that it may be formed from it, namely, the sense of him who sees. 

Vision is not an offspring of the body, because “something else is applied to the bodily thing–” in other words something spiritual: “the sense of him who sees.”

And for this reason, to love this is to be estranged. 

It is not right to love the body as the source of Vision.

Therefore the Will which unites both, viz. the quasi-parent [human body] and the quasi-child [Vision of a material object], is more spiritual than either of them. For that bodily thing which is discerned, is not spiritual at all.

Vision is spiritual, because its immaterial and it’s the “quasi-child” of the body, because it is not really from the body (“the quasi-parent.”) The Will, however, is spiritual/immaterial and makes the Vision possible, uniting both. This Will appears to be the desire of the Mind. It is equated with the Soul (see later in paragraph) because the Soul is the Will to see actualized

The preceding is a somewhat strange argument, because a Soul can exist in a blind person. As we shall see in a bit, Augustine is speaking of the origin of a sense of Vision, so a sense is technically within a blind person’s soul (or Christ could not heal the blind if a sense of vision was not natural even to a blind man). Understood in this way, Vision exists when the sense begins, which derives from ensoulment.

But the Vision which comes into existence in the sense, has something spiritual mingled with it, since it cannot come into existence without the Soul. But it is not wholly spiritual; since that which is formed is a sense of the body. Therefore the Will which unites both is confessedly more spiritual, as I have said; and so it begins to suggest (insinuare), as it were, the person of the Spirit in the Trinity. But it belongs more to the sense that is formed, than to the bodily thing whence it is formed.

In short, the Vision is the Son and He is described as a manifestation of the physical world combining with the spiritual world (i.e. equating seeing visible material forms with Christ’s incarnation). This is actualized by the Spirit (Christ was conceived by the Spirit). Being that Augustine explicitly states that the “Will which unites both” and the “attention of the Mind…which connects both” is the Holy Spirit, we can have no doubt that he believed the Father alone is cause of the Spirit. After all, Augustine states that “this attention [to see, i.e. the Will to see] is the act of the Mind alone.”

Augustine then continues in Par 9:

For the sense and Will of an animate being belongs to the Soul, not to the stone or other bodily thing that is seen. It does not therefore proceed from that bodily thing as from a parent; yet neither does it proceed from that other as it were offspring, namely, the Vision [the Logos] and Form That is in the Sense [the Logos made flesh]. 

As it pertains to the incarnation, there is a sense in which the Spirit is a “parent” to the Son.

For the Will existed before the Vision came to pass, which Will applied the sense that was to be formed to the bodily thing that was to be discerned; but it was not yet satisfied. 

Until the “Will” is “satisfied,” earlier referred to by myself as “the desire actualized,” the Vision does not come to pass (nor does the Soul properly have its sense, or the Mind’s desire to know its knowledge, or the Lover’s desire to love its beloved.)

For how could that which was not yet seen satisfy? And satisfaction means a Will that rests content. 

This is perhaps another passage where we can equate Augustine’s Pneumatological doctrine with the Damascene’s: “[W]e believe also in one Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life: Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son” (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chap 8).

And, therefore, we can neither call the Will the quasi-offspring of Vision, since it existed before Vision; nor the quasi-parent, since that Vision was not formed and expressed from the Will, but from the bodily thing that was seen

The Will/Soul is not the cause of the Vision, because what is seen in the Vision (in a sense) pre-exists being seen. In other words, the Will/Soul is not the cause of the Son because the Father begat Him. However, the Will is not the “quasi-offspring” of the Vision, because the Will to see before what was seen was made visible. In other words, the Vision (Son) does not cause the Will (Spirit).

On a side note, how about the incarnation? I presume, in some sense, the Spirit is not the cause of the incarnation, because all things are “from” the Father, “through” the Son, and “in” the Holy Spirit. According to Saint Maximus, “in” pertains to the Spirit being present in all physical things and people in creation (cf Questions of Thalassius, Question 15). 

Perhaps we can rightly call Vision the end and rest of the Will…there can be no question made about showing that the end of the Will is the Vision; for it [the will] is manifest (Par 10). 

Consistent with the manifestation doctrine, the Spirit manifests when He rests in the Son—i.e. the Mind’s desire is actualized.

For visual learners, I sum up the preceding in Illustration #4:


My detractors might say this illustration is of the incarnation, and so “the rules” that apply are different than to the eternal causation of the Spirit. However, being that Bibilically, liturgically, and sacramentally we are always putting the horse (the Spirit) before the cart—at what point do we admit the obvious and see that the Spirit’s spiration mirrors the incarnation itself? The plain sense of Augustine’s illustrations disallows for the Son being part of the cause of the Spirit. Not coincidentally, the illustrations follow the order of the role of the Persons in the incarnation and how the liturgy describes the consecration of the Eucharist. 

Augustine in Books IX and X gives examples which demonstrate the eternal relationships within the Trinity where the Son has no causal role in the Spirit’s origination. In Book XI, Augustine speaks of the incarnation within the purview of Vision—following the same exact pattern. It would be fair to say that Augustine viewed these logical priorities within the Trinity as consistent and applicable universally. Hence, it is within the lens of these illustrations, which flesh out his doctrine of the Trinity, that we must understand his doctrinal explanations in Book XV.

Between Books XI and XV, there is not too much relevant to the Pneumatological discussion we have not already covered. That does not mean interesting things are not commented upon. 

In Book XII, it appears that Augustine (citing 1 Cor 11) teaches that technically only man, and not woman, is made in the image of God (Par 9-10).

In Book XIII, Augustine teaches that the desire to sin or to refuse to is “alien from paradise before sin,” (Par 23) which is a profound teaching that anticipates Maximus’ teaching on gnomic will.

We covered some snippets from Book XIV in the previous article and for the sake of brevity, I will offer no additional comments on it.

Let’s end with a comment from an important section in Book XIII:

Because, first, those sounds of words are in his memory [i.e. Mind], even when he does not think thereupon; and next, the mental Vision (acies) of his act of recollection is formed thence when he conceives of them; and next, the Will of him who remembers and thinks unites both. (Par 26)

Anyone reading the preceding can realize that the Will which unites mental Vision to the Mind’s memory is not caused by the mental Vision in any way. Even with a chronological-sounding word like “next,” it is abundantly obvious that Vision does not play a role in causing the Will. 

On what consistent basis can anyone think, seeing that Augustine says the Will proceeds from the “Mind alone” (Augustine: “solius animi,”) that the Spirit requires the Son as part of a causal principle? As we shall see, Roman Catholics are not reading into Augustine the illustrations we covered in this and the preceding article. By not understanding Augustine on the man’s own terms, Roman Catholics (and those mirroring their interpretations) fundamentally misunderstand Book XV.

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